Malawiâ€™s justice delivery system is expected to be up and running again from this Monday after Capital Hill agreed to increase salaries for the Judiciary staff, effectively ending a two and a half months strike.
The Executive arm of government has also pledged to pay the Judiciary staff arrears backdated to 2006.
Chief Secretary to the Government Bright Msaka told journalists in Malawiâ€™s capital, Lilongwe, on Saturday night that the Executive and the Judiciary have reached an agreement with conditions convenient to both parties.
â€œThe two parties have, after appropriate consultations, reached an agreement on all the issues of concern and a settlement agreement has been signed today [Saturday], 24th March 2012.
â€œAs a result of the signing of the settlement agreement, the industrial action has now ceased, and the courts will start functioning on Monday, 26th March 2012,â€ he said.
Judiciary support staff initiated the strike on January 9 2012, demanding implementation of their 2006 salary adjustments as approved by Parliament.
â€˜Resolution good news butâ€¦â€™
Spokesperson of the support staff, Austin Kamanga, on Sunday described the resolution as good news, but long overdue.
He also said there are small differences between what the support staff demanded and what has been agreed between the two parties; hence, enough reason for the courts to resume work.
Msaka said with the Judiciary not functioning, it was difficult for government to operate well as a democracy.
â€œThe Judiciary is an important component of democracy as one arm of government. It was indeed difficult for government to function properly without one arm,â€ he said.
Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Atanazio Tembo, who is chairperson of the Working Committee on Judiciary Conditions of Service, signed the agreement on behalf of the Judiciary.
However, both Msaka and Tembo refused to disclose specific terms and conditions in the agreement.
Finance and Development Planning Minister Dr Ken Lipenga is on record as having said government would need to raise K1.2 billion (about $7.2 million) to pay the arrears.
The Judiciary strike resulted in increased congestion in Malawi Police Service cells and led to some untried suspects being remanded to prisons.
â€˜Courts will be under pressureâ€™
National Police spokesperson Davie Chingwalu on Sunday said although the police will now be relieved from the congestion problem, the courts will be under pressure to handle all the cases waiting to be heard.
â€œThere are thousands of cases waiting to go to court. From sun rise to sun set daily, we receive a lot of cases which means for the period that the Judiciary was on strike, there is a long list of cases,â€ he said.
But Kamanga said people should not be worried about the number of cases to be handled. He said the Judiciary, using its own systems, will catch up with the pressure.
â€œWhat is important is that the matter has been resolved. The issue of many cases should not worry people. As the Judiciary, we have our own programmes that will help us handle the cases in time,â€ he said.
Malawi Prisons Service spokesperson Evance Phiri said there were additional 974 suspects in prisons, leading to an increase in the number of suspects from 12 450 to 13 424 as of March 8 2012.
The resolution to end the strike comes against a background of the Executive issuing statements where it charged that the strike had no basis as the Executive and the Judiciary renegotiated the terms and conditions approved by Parliament.
But a senior Judiciary officer dismissed the assertion as a â€œblatant lieâ€, saying there was never a time the terms and conditions were renegotiated.